360 Photos on the Open Web

One of my hobbies is photography. So as I begin dabbling in VR, I find myself quite curious about 360 photos. A 360 photo is the “bare minimum” of a VR experience.

A flattened Equirectangular Image (an unwrapped 360 image) of a little girl sitting on a jetty at the beach
How can we make this 360 photo fully immersive and available to everyone on the Open Web?

What is a 360 photo?

A 360 photo goes by many names, but each describes a photograph that completely surrounds the camera. It shows what is in front – in back – off to the sides – and above and below. ALL of it. You can look all around, and everywhere you look has been captured in the photo.

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Maple Keys revisited with WebVR

Lie down under a maple tree, and watch the keys lazily drift down towards you. In your VR goggles, with WebVR!

(This is in an iFrame – to pop it out for your VR goggles, click here)

I’d written a demo using THREE.js some time back, that simulated maple keys falling in the spring. Having secured some VR goggles (Samsung Gear VR with a Galaxy S7), and tried no end of VR experiences, it seemed like I should “port” that demo into an immersive version.

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VR for Web Developers

So you’re a web developer, and you’ve been hearing things about VR. I’m also a web developer, and I’ve also been hearing things about VR! And I’ve been blogging about it. Not just VR – but how VR is very likely to soon become both a crisis and an opportunity for web developers. So what are the prospects for VR for web developers?

The dawn of virtual reality.Today is April 8, 2016. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive both tried to start shipping in the last couple of weeks – and it’s been a bit of a mess. But even so, eager early adopters have raved up and down that this revolutionary technology finally actually works.

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Virtual Worlds vs Virtual Reality

What is the difference between a virtual world, and virtual reality?

A virtual world is a fake place you can visit. Virtual reality is an immersive way of experiencing virtual worlds.

The difference between virtual worlds vs virtual reality is kind of like the difference between a web page and colour monitors. A virtual world, like a web page, is a container of content. A VR headset, like a colour monitor, is a way of looking at content.

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Introducing Idoru.js

idoru.js is an experiment I’m working on with artificial characters in virtual worlds. The idea is that to provide good “user experience” (UX) in a virtual world, a character must have good “stage presence” to stimulate engagement.

The idea is to create a framework for an artificial character that is charming and attentive to the user. This character can then be “dressed up” with any imaginable avatar. It can be given any “job” that anyone cares to script.

A screenshot of the very first prototype of idoru.js - with a rudimentary avatar and chatbot.
First idoru.js experiment.

A good suit and deep knowledge are not enough to make a person engaging in the real world. A person needs body language. A person needs to be attentive to the person they are engaging. They need to make eye contact. They need to interact with a person’s personal space in a thoughtful, polite way.

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The Dawn of Virtual Reality

The dawn of virtual reality.
The Dawn of Virtual Reality

Over the last couple of days, the very first “Oculus Rift” headsets have been arriving on the heads of ordinary consumers. And those who write about such things are going wild. This, they say, is the dawn of virtual reality. As far as a lot of people are concerned, this is the beginning of a whole new medium. And given what I’ve seen about the sweeping psychological implications of “immersive media”, it could be true.

For example, Matthias Mccoy-Thompson of The Medium makes the bold statement:

Today marks the biggest revolution in gaming since Pong took games from the realm of boards into the digital.Continue reading “The Dawn of Virtual Reality”

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Virtual Vertigo

I’ve learned that chatting with my daughters’ friends is a great way to glean insights into what people think about virtual reality. Because they actually do think about virtual reality.

Screenshot of my daughters and I standing atop a waterfall, in our bathing suits, in Minecraft.
My daughters made their own “swimsuit” skins for a pool party in Minecraft. So I made one with a sunburn.

One of my daughter’s friends, who is in grade 6, introduced himself to me yesterday. He was a very polite, well-spoken young man. We got to talking about Minecraft. Pocket edition, Realms, Minecraft summer camps, and I turned the conversation over to virtual reality. Continue reading “Virtual Vertigo”

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Beloola – Social VR

Beloola is social virtual reality on the open web.

Screencap of my first visit to Beloola, a social virtual reality website.
(I’m the girl in the leather jacket)

I kid you not. I saw it. I tried it. WebVR, no plugins. It works. Today, March 7, 2016.

They’ve got everything you’d need to have a social experience in a virtual world. Avatars with moving parts. Pick your clothes and appearance. A bunch of gestures you can control. Many different worlds. Freedom of mobility. And a chat window. Continue reading “Beloola – Social VR”

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VR in Therapy, Therapy in VR

Virtual reality has obvious applications in the field of entertainment, particularly for gaming. But there are other areas in which the ability to create an immersive visual reality, without any of the dangers associated with its real-world equivalent, can be beneficial. One interesting example is the use of VR in therapy. Continue reading “VR in Therapy, Therapy in VR”

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